Battling for international education bucks & bodies

The world’s children are coming to the Tri-Cities to learn but keeping them here or attracting new students is a constant battle.  - TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO
The world’s children are coming to the Tri-Cities to learn but keeping them here or attracting new students is a constant battle.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO


The world’s children are coming to the Tri-Cities to learn but keeping them here or attracting new students is a constant battle.

School District 43 has to work ever harder to maintain enrolment at a steady 1,000 students a year because competition is getting fiercer and global economic conditions are in flux, Patricia Gartland, the district’s director of global engagement and strategic initiatives told trustees at a board of education meeting Tuesday.

“You can’t ever take any of it for granted,” Gartland said as she gave an accounting of the year’s activities to Tri-City trustees.

SD43’s international education program has won world renown — and, recently, recognition in two national publications, The Globe and Mail and Maclean’s — for being one of the largest in the country. Fees the students pay contribute $16 million to the district’s bottom line, or 6.5% of the operating budget, and schools get extra grants and more teachers with money from the $12,000-per-student annual fees.



While the money is important, Gartland told trustees, the program’s goal is to prepare students for a globalized world.

And keeping it going takes constant attention; for example, the program recruited 400 students just this fall and will need to find another 250 mid-year to cover attrition.

“Some markets, [the students] have shorter stays and you have much greater turnover,” Gartland said.

To keep filling the draining bucket, relationships have to be maintained with agents, sister schools and even individual families, and new markets have to be developed.

Now that fewer students are coming from South Korea, SD43 is turning to new markets in China, Turkey, Latin America and Vietnam, where economies are currently stronger. This year, for example, 19 students enrolled from Brazil, eight of whom are attending high school; four students have come from Columbia; six from Mexico; four from Turkey; 19 from Thailand; and five from Vietnam.

The district has also developed a long-term relationship with the Hong Kong Education Commission, resulting in the enrolment of  27 students. Other students come from Taiwan (42) and Japan (17).

But China could prove to be the biggest market. Gartland noted that 300 students have been recruited from China in the last three years, reflecting the district’s success in partnering with schools there and other strategic relationships.

“This, coupled with our Confucius Classroom, reflect our significant presence in the second largest economy in the world,” she said, referring to a cultural program that enrols more than 480 students per semester in Mandarin classes that run on Friday evenings and Saturdays at two sites.

Gartland also noted the relationships developed with China have resulted in cultural opportunities for all students. This spring, the Nanjing University Traditional Instruments Orchestra played a concert at Port Moody’s Heritage Woods secondary and Coquitlam’s Walton elementary is hosting the Xinhua News photo exhibition this fall. As well, several students and teachers received scholarships to study in China this summer.

The good news is that the relationships being built now could further the goals of the international education program in the future, she said, noting, “China is still a new market.”



School District 43 is beginning the new school year with better news than usual. Tuesday, the board of education approved the audited financial statements for 2010/’11, which included a $774,369 surplus.

But the leftover cash is nothing to get too excited about, the district’s assistant secretary treasurer said. Bob Janzen compared the sum to a $200 saving on a $50,000 family budget. “It’s a razor thin margin,” he said.

The statements include details of revenues, operating expenditures and the balance sheet, and show the district spent $290 million to operate schools, including employee benefit pay-outs, services and supplies and the amortization of capital assets.

Janzen noted revenue and expenditures were up about $11 million from the year previous due to extra costs and funding associated with full-day kindergarten.

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